Dec. 5, 2020

What is your salary range expectation?

What is your salary range expectation?

In this episode, I will show you how to find the best strategy to negotiating your salary. There is no one-size-fit-all approach but there are some important aspects that can help you to find the best tactic, such as your aspired salary range, your leverage in the negotiation process and the right timing. All of these are covered in the four-step approach explained in this episode.

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Welcome to this episode about negotiating salary. I have seen many candidates that were very uncomfortable when I asked them about compensation expectations during the interview. And the question, "What is your salary range expectation?" is, of course, a tricky one. There is no one-size-fits-all-approach to answering this, and you must find the strategy that best fits your individual circumstances. 

Here are four steps that might help do so:

Step 1: Prepare the data.

Start by determining what salary range you are aiming for. What is the minimum acceptable salary, and what would you consider as a very good one? Then, I recommend doing some research to figure out two things: first, what is the salary range for the position at the company you applied to; second, what is the average range for this position in your geography. You might find this information, for example, on sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, PayScale and ZipRecruiter.

Step 2: Understand your negotiation position.

It is crucial to understand how much leverage you have. If we simplify it, then there are three different positions. Maybe you currently have a great job, a good salary and no intention to leave, and a headhunter contacted you for this new job. In addition, you might even have unique skills, and the company has a very urgent need to fill the position. In that case, you have the upper hand in the negotiation. However, if you desperately need the job, and the competition for it is large, then you are in a less fortunate negotiation position; you have the lower hand. And, of course, you might be somewhere in between, which is the third position. 

Step 3: Choose your strategy.

If you have the lower hand, I would, in most cases, recommend not telling the interviewer your salary expectations; instead, let the company make the first offer. I will explain later in this episode how to do this the best way. 

If you have the upper hand, you can choose to wait until you are offered the job, or you can answer the question when it comes up during the interview. Either way, it often is a good idea to pick a number between the middle and the upper end of your range.

If you are in the third position (you want the job, but not desperately), then, in many cases, the right strategy is to avoid specifying a concrete number during the interview process. Instead, the best time to start negotiating salary is after being selected as the best candidate and before receiving the first offer. But what number to tell? Well, there are three approaches, depending on how well aligned your expectations are with the company's range for this position. If they are aligned, you might want to ask for a number just above the middle of your range. However, if your salary range expectation is lower than the company's, you might want them to make the first offer. And finally, if your expectation is higher than what the company usually pays, then you might want to be the one proposing the first number. In that case, it often is a good idea to choose one that has some margin to your minimum and that is not entirely off the company's range or the range for this position in your geography. 

Step 4: Address the question.

So, what to say, when asked, "What is your salary range expectation?"

In case you want to avoid giving any numbers, you could say that you cannot answer the question at this moment, because you first need to understand the whole compensation package, including potential other benefits. You could also say something like, "I would like to understand the role and expectations in more detail first, but I am sure we will be able to reach a fair agreement once we establish that I am the right candidate for the job."

If you do want to name your salary expectations, you could phrase it like this: "I am very interested in the role, and I am convinced I can provide value, given my skills and background. Based on my research, I would expect a salary in the range of x and y. Is that aligned with the budget you have for this position?”. A bolder approach, if you have the upper hand in the negotiations, could be to say: "I really like what I have heard about the role so far, and I know that I can provide a lot of value and quickly deliver results. To be willing to make a move, I would expect a salary in the range of x and y".

And, by the way, it might happen that the interviewer asks you to tell them what you currently earn. There are only a few cases where giving this information is to your advantage. One of them is when your salary range is higher than the company's and your current salary is, as well. But in most cases, it is better not to give them this information. You could either say that the positions are not comparable and therefore neither is the salary, which is why you do not want to answer this question. Or, you could say that your current employer considers their salary ranges confidential, and therefore you cannot disclose this information. Depending on where you live, this question might even be illegal to ask. If that is the case, you also could refuse to answer it because of this, which obviously would be the least diplomatic way.


These were the four steps, which covered preparing your data, understanding your negotiation position, choosing your strategy and answering the actual question, "What is your salary range expectation?" As previously mentioned, which way you choose to answer is very specific and there are many things to be considered. We covered some of the most important aspects in this episode, but you can contact me if you want to discuss your individual case in more detail.

That’s it for today. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you!